The Trapp Family
The Trapp Family in January 1946 (photograph by Conrad Poirier)
Background information
Also known asThe von Trapp Family; The Trapp Family Singers; The Trapp Family Choir
OriginSalzburg, Austria
Genresvocal music, religious music, instrumental music
Years active1935–1957
LabelsVictor, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon
Past membersGeorg von Trapp
Maria von Trapp
Rupert von Trapp
Agathe von Trapp
Maria Franziska von Trapp
Werner von Trapp
Hedwig von Trapp
Johanna von Trapp
Martina von Trapp
Johannes von Trapp

The Trapp Family (also known as the von Trapp Family) was an Austrian singing family of the former naval commander Georg von Trapp. The family achieved fame in their original singing career in their native Austria during the interwar period. They also performed in the United States before emigrating there permanently to escape the deteriorating situation in Austria during World War II. In the United States, they became well known as the "Trapp Family Singers" until they ceased to perform as a unit in 1957. The family's story later served as the basis for a memoir, two German films, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway musical The Sound of Music. The last surviving of the original seven Trapp children, Maria Franziska, died in 2014 at the age of 99.


History of the group

Maria and Georg Ludwig von Trapp

Georg von Trapp had seven children at the time of his first wife, Agathe Whitehead,'s death, and in 1927 he married Maria Kutschera, who was twenty-five years his junior, with whom he had three more children. Both parts of the family were musical, and by 1935 the family was singing at the local church in Aigen, where they made the acquaintance of a young priest, Dr Franz Wasner, who encouraged their musical progress and taught them sacred music to add to the folk songs, madrigals and ballads they were already singing.[1] While singing at their Salzburg home they were also heard by the German concert singer Lotte Lehmann, who persuaded them to take part in the song competition at the 1936 Salzburg Festival, for which they won a prize; after this, accompanied by Dr Wasner, the family toured and performed in Vienna and Salzburg, and undertook a European tour that encompassed France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and England.[1]

In the same year, the family performed in the United States for the first time before returning to Austria when their visas expired; however, in the same year[1938 vs 1936?], Adolf Hitler annexed Austria, and the family decided to leave, first for Italy (of which the Zadar-born Georg and thus the family were legally citizens). For some months in 1938, just after their flight, they lived in Warmond, near The Hague, Netherlands, as the guests of a Dutch banker, Ernest Menten. This episode is described by local historian Miep Smitsloo in her 2007 Dutch book 'Tussen Tol en Trekvaart' ('Between Toll and Canal'). In her account of the flight, Maria von Trapp for an unknown reason does not mention this stay.

From there they went to the United States, where they applied for immigrant status in 1939. They arrived with very little money, having lost most of the family fortune earlier during a 1935 banking collapse in Austria. Once in the United States they earned money by performing and touring nationally and internationally, first as the "Trapp Family Choir" and then, the "Trapp Family Singers", a change suggested by their booking agent Frederick Christian Schang. After living for a short time in Philadelphia[2] and then Merion, Pennsylvania, where their youngest child Johannes was born, the family settled in Stowe, Vermont, in 1941. They purchased a 660-acre (270 ha) farm in 1942 and converted it into the Trapp Family Lodge, initially called "Cor Unum". After World War II, they founded the Trapp Family Austrian Relief fund, which sent food and clothing to people impoverished in Austria. By now based permanently in the United States, the family performed their unique mixture of liturgical music, madrigals, folk music and instrumentals to audiences in over 30 countries for the next 20 years.[3] They made a series of 78-rpm records for RCA Victor in the 1950s, some of which were later issued on RCA Camden LPs. There were also a few later recordings released on LPs, including some stereo sessions. The family singing group disbanded in 1957.

The Trapp Family rehearsing before a concert, near Boston, 27 September 1941.
The Trapp Family rehearsing before a concert, near Boston, 27 September 1941.
Cor Unum (later the "Trapp Family Lodge"), home of the Trapp Family Singers in the U.S., in 1954
Cor Unum (later the "Trapp Family Lodge"), home of the Trapp Family Singers in the U.S., in 1954

Maria wrote an account of the singing family The Story of the Trapp Family Singers which was published in 1949 and was the inspiration for the 1956 West German film The Trapp Family, which in turn inspired by Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway musical The Sound of Music.[4][5] The original seven Trapp children were: Rupert (1911–1992); Agathe (1913–2010); Maria Franziska (1914–2014); Werner (1915–2007); Hedwig (1917–1972); Johanna (1919–1994); and Martina (1921–1952). The later children were Rosmarie (b.1929), Eleonore (b.1931), and Johannes (b.1939).[6] The eldest daughter, Agathe (called "Liesl" in the film), published her own account of life in the Trapp family in 2003, Memories Before and After The Sound of Music,[7] which was later itself turned into the film The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music in 2015.[8]

Later lives

Two members of the group died while the group was still active, Georg in 1947 at age 67, and Martina, who died in childbirth in 1952 at age 30. At the time of its cessation in 1957, the group included a number of non-family members because many of the original family wanted to pursue other endeavors, and only Maria's "iron will" had kept the group together for so long.[6] After the group's demise, Maria, Johannes, Rosmarie, and Maria Franziska went to New Guinea to do missionary work; later Maria returned to run the Trapp Family Lodge for a number of years.

Of the remaining children in their later years, Rupert was already a medical doctor during World War II; Agathe spent many years as a kindergarten teacher in Maryland; Maria Franziska spent thirty years as a missionary in New Guinea; Werner became a farmer; Hedwig a music teacher; Johanna married and returned to Austria; Rosmarie and Eleonore both settled in Vermont; and Johannes followed his mother by managing the Trapp Family Lodge as a tourist resort. Maria died in 1987 and was buried with Georg and Martina in the family cemetery on the property.[6] All of the original seven Trapp children had died by 2014, while only one of the later two children, Johannes, is still alive as of October, 2021. Eleonore “Lorli” von Trapp Campbell died on October 17, 2021. [9]

Musical style and repertoire

The real-life Trapp family were a respected Austrian singing group throughout their career. However, their style was a world away from the Broadway and Hollywood crowd-pleasing popular numbers as later included in the musical and film versions of their lives. Many of their studio recordings survive and have been reproduced as contemporary CD compilations. As for their live performances, in his 2004 essay Family values: The Trapp Family Singers in North America, 1938-1956, Michael Saffle writes:

It is difficult to document today precisely what the Trapps performed and where they performed it. Only a very few of their programs have been reprinted. One of these—again, a Christmas program—identifies an arrangement of three short pieces (for "Antique Instruments") and a Sonata by Sammartini (presented by a "Quintet of Recorders") as the evening's principal instrumental selections; shorter vocal works included Praetorius's "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen," a Monteverdi madrigal, Holst's "Midwinter," and an arrangement of "The Holly and the Ivy." Another program—unfortunately incomplete, but known to have been presented in 1943 at Boston's Jordan Hall—featured a song by John Dowland, transcriptions by Wasner of Tyrolean folk tunes, and a Trio for two recorders and viola da gamba composed by "Werner von Trapp." In spite of their instrumental accomplishments, however, the Trapps were above all a vocal ensemble that sang (and played) music together largely for religious reasons.[10]

On the other hand, press releases subsequent to 1941 advertised "rollicking folk songs of many lands," "gay, lilting madrigals," and "lusty yodels and mountain calls" as well as "exquisite old motets and masses," and bragged of "record cross-country tour[s]" and large numbers of engagements,[10] which attested to their popular appeal and suggests that the religious content was only one of several contributing elements to this over their main period of popularity in America.


Four grandchildren of Werner von Trapp (called "Kurt" in the film), great-grandchildren of Georg and step great-grandchildren of Maria, formed a singing group, "The von Trapps," and recorded five albums in a modern style between 2001 and 2016 before disbanding.[11]

Partial Discography

78 recordings

[more details awaited]

LP releases

CD releases (compilations)


  1. ^ a b Campbell, Elizabeth M., 2007: Introduction to English Translation of Georg von Trapp: "To the Last Salute: Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander". University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.
  2. ^ "The Hills Are Alive... In Mt. Airy for $800K". 18 April 2018.
  3. ^ Trapp Family Singers
  4. ^ Peter Kerr (29 March 1987). "Maria von Trapp, Whose Life was 'Sound of Music', is Dead" Check |url= value (help). New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
  5. ^ Bernhard, Marianne (1 October 1980). "Maria von Trapp speaks". Milwaukee Journal. (Washington Post). p. 6, part 1.
  6. ^ a b c Prologue Magazine: Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the Von Trapp Family
  7. ^ Good Reads: Agathe Von Trapp: Memories Before and After the Sound of Music
  8. ^ common sense media: The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music. Movie review by Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Saffle. Michael. 2004. "Family Values: The Trapp Family Singers in North America, 1938-1956". Canadian University Music Review 24 (2), 62–79. Doi: 10.7202/1014583ar.
  11. ^ Country Living: Megan Friedman Mar 23, 2016: The Von Trapp Family is Saying So Long, Farewell to Music